Friday, July 24, 2015

The Toy Story

Aman, a fair-skinned and dark-eyed 8-year old boy, is an epitome of spiritedness. An alcoholic father, a loving but perennially tired mother who works as a daily-wage labourer, a make-shift living arrangement under a busy over-bridge of Mumbai and the daily struggle to make ends meet; nothing dampens his desire to stay happy. He loves the twinkle in other kids’ eyes when their parents buy them a toy. He started selling toys in an attempt to stop everyday squabbles between his parents when his father demanded his mother’s hard-earned money to spend it on alcohol. He hands over most of his share of earnings to his father while some he secretly gives to his mother. It has made their lives much more peaceful if not easier. However, soon he started enjoying selling toys.

He likes the feeling of moist sea breeze in his shirt, the soothing touch of beach’s soft sand on his feet, the sound of chirping birds, gurgling water and laughing toddlers. They make him believe that the world is indeed a happy place. He enjoys the amusement in that little girl’s eyes when the plastic dog he has jumps up barking in the air. He revels in the attention he gets when so many kids gather around him and listen to his monkey playing uplifting drum beats. In the last two months, he has seen all sorts of kids and parents. He has seen extremely quiet children who didn’t even bother giving a response when asked by their parents if they wanted a toy. He has also seen adamant children who stomp, squeak and even start rolling on the beach sand if their demand for a toy is rejected by their parents. He has seen parents happily buying their children dozens of toys and has also seen the ones who’ll ignore their crying kid’s plea for one small toy. Aman comes alive in this colourful mosaic of myriad emotions.

Once the moon starts shining bright, the beach tends to get quieter. Aman now hands over his toy basket to a chaat-vendor and runs along the beach. He runs fast racing with the wind. He wants his pinwheel to rotate so fast that he stops seeing its brightly coloured concentric circles, the narrow spaces between each pin and the giant red dot at its centre.  This inanimate pinwheel inspires Aman. It moves joyously when the wind flows against it. It derives its motion from adversity. Hearing the sound of fluttering pinwheel against the sound of massive waves fills Aman with a strange sense of victory.

Today, Aman woke up to find that the weather is particularly delightful with sweet aroma of wet sand floating in air. The thought of more than usual crowded beach made him happier. He lifted up his toy basket, stuck his pinwheel in his pocket, hung his money bag across his shoulders and rejoiced his way towards the beach. He indeed was right. The shore today is more colourful, more vibrant and more lively.  The sun soon set leaving an orange panorama across the sky and now the reflection of full moon on sea is shimmering like a jewel. Aman starts running gleefully on the beach, content to see his pinwheel challenging the strong gusts of wind. He is interrupted by a loud whistle from the chaat-wala. He sees an eager kid standing near his basket with his parents and goes running towards them.

“How much is this pinwheel for”, asked the young lady in a tone more affectionate than Aman is used to.
“Ohh no no, this one is not for sale. There are so many toys with me which are way better," he said pointing at his basket, “Buy something from this.”
The parents looked at their kid who understood that his answer was awaited and grumpily said- “No, I want the pinwheel.”
“Look Baba”, said Aman, “Here is an elephant which can move its trunk. And a dog, it can bark and shake its tail. These birds can actually fly and chirp. Buy something from these.” Aman was visibly uneasy.
“No”, the kid replied with a straight face and pointed at the pinwheel while looking at his parents.
“Look beta”, the lady softly said, “Give us the pinwheel, we’ll give you Rs. 50 for something that is only Rs. 10 or 15. He’ll cry the whole night otherwise and won’t sleep.”
Aman smilingly looked at the child and gave him his pinwheel. He accepted Rs. 50 which the lady offered him. The kid had an overbearing sense of achievement on his face which perturbed Aman a little but he soon started preparing to leave.

That entire night Aman didn’t sleep. He spent it making himself another pinwheel and be ready to take on with his life.

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